Q Media: Audio Tour Experts

Delivering your goals, to your visitors, within your budget.

Happy Birthday To Us

Hello Q Media blog reader.  In June 2010 Q Media will celebrate eight years in business producing audio tours so in reflection I’d like to share with you info about the driving personnel here at Q Media, the story of how we came about and why producing audio tours is what we chose to focus on.  I hope you find our journey interesting and happy birthday to us, happy birthday to us, happy birthday Q Media, happy birthday to us.  And many more…  -M

Q Media Productions was started in 2002 by principals and married partners Stasha Boyd and Mike Lutz.  Stasha and Mike always shared an interest in museums and since Mike is an audio engineer he always gravitated to taking the audio tour when one was available.  Both Stasha and Mike had jobs in entertainment before starting their company – Mike as the aforementioned audio engineer and Stasha has a theater degree and made her living as an actor for many years – so they were always interested in experiencing audio tours when they encountered them in their travels.  Some tours were very well produced (both the Alcatraz and Ellis Island tours they took really impressed them) and others, well, not so good.

They found that after they had taken a tour their appreciation and review of it came from two differrent perspectives — being an audio engineer Mike focused on the production aspects of the tour.  What was the ‘feel’ of the production?  How were sound effects and music used to craft the sonic experience?  Being on the writing/performance side Stasha gave focus to the writing and its delivery.  What was the emotional theme and how well was it consistently told?  Did the actors used in the production convey an effective and emotional impact with their performances? And so on.  They would compare their opinions about the tour and what they thought about it and they always looked forward to find an audio tour offered no matter where they were to see how it was produced and how it helped them to appreciate and understand the place they were experiencing.

Which leads us to how Q Media came about.  In October 2001 Mike and Stasha decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, FL which is located near where they live in Florida.  Fantasy of Flight has the largest privately held collection of vintage aircraft in the world and many of the airplanes on display there are kept in flying condition.  You may think Fantasy of Flight is a strange place to celebrate a wedding anniversary but truth be told Mike has been an aviation enthusiast since he was young and even at one point suggested they get married there “between the propellers of some of the planes with a 40’s theme and a jumping swing band!”  Sorry to say that vision didn’t quit sit right with many persons involved (especially his future mother-in-law who was writing the check for the whole she-bang) so sadly it didn’t come to pass.  Anyway, going to Fantasy of Flight that day was the catalyst that started them on their journey.  You see while Mike and Stasha were touring the facility Mike was letting her know some of the things he knew about the planes.  “That’s a P-51 Mustang painted in the marking of Maj. George Preddy, he was the leading Mustang ace of the war only to be shot down by friendly fire on Christmas Day, 1944”.  Or “…that’s a B-25 Mitchell – a land-based bomber.  Gen. James Doolittle modified and flew one like that off the carrier USS Hornet to bomb Tokyo in 1942”.  After a while of this Mike turned to Stasha and said “you know what this place needs is an audio tour.”  At that point Mike and Stasha looked at each other and thought out loud  “who produces them anyway?”  That’s how they got the notion to get into producing audio tours and have been doing so ever since.

In the past eight years Q Media has gone on to produce audio tours for many types of facilities.  Whether it’s an art museum like The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL, or an iconic structure like Mount Rushmore or even Fantasy of Flight (Q Media eventually produced an audio tour for them in 2006), plus many more, Mike and Stasha have been the main, driving force behind Q Media and their talents have been on each and every one of Q Media’s productions.  Stasha has written most of their tours.  Mike has recorded and produced the audio.  They take pride in the fact that when a tour is completed it was from their hands-on creative choices and endeavors that made it so:   When a contract is signed for a tour to be produced by Q Media it is them that have not just the oversight of the tour’s success but their sweat, toil and care go into each one because ultimately they are the ones crafting the tour with their talents for their clients.

So there you have the Reader’s Digest story of Q Media on this anniversary of its conception and inception. Mike and Stasha love what they do and as Mike says “…each time we produce a tour is like taking a class.  Beer Making.  American History.  Aviation.  Japanese Garden Design.  Nature and Wildlife.  Our projects have exposed us to new things and have taken us all over the country.   We always look forward to what is next on the horizon to learn about.”

So please contact Q Media if you are considering providing or upgrading the audio tour at your facility.  Mike and Stasha would love to be the company you choose to provide you with our award-winning approach and capabilities to bring your vision ‘to ear’.

What we’ve been up to lately

Well we realized that we hadn’t updated our blog in some time and we wanted to write a post to let the world know what Q Media has been up to these last several months.  We like keeping you up to date on what our recent past projects have been and what are current projects are.  Maybe the next project we produce will be yours! 

Here are some of our recent past projects:

We produced and equipped an audio tour of the Seedskadee Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Green River, WY.  This area of Wyoming is beautiful with its wide open lands and wildlife and Q Media was hired to write and produce two tours – an audio tour of the visitor center and another audio tour for the visually impaired.  Q Media executive producer and main writer Stasha Boyd recently received her certification from the American Association for the Blind to write visually described tours and the National Park Service and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Association are organizations who are striving to make their facilities compliant to the ADA requirements by offering interpretative content to the visually and hearing impaired.  The tour is presented to the public on Infrared triggered Orpheo Classic audio guides so the content plays automatically when a visitor enters each audio stop area.  Special thanks to Formations, Inc who designed and built the exhibit areas and provided the installation services to install the audio guide equipment.  Client – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Green River, WY.

We produced and equipped an audio tour for the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee, WI.  Miller and Coors merged in 2009 and the Miller Brewery also offers tours like the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO which Q Media produced an audio tour for in 2008 .  Q Media was contracted to produce a Spanish audio tour of the facility and we worked with the Miller Brewery staff who provided the script and we provided the translation, voiceover production and audio guide equipment.  A good example of how audio guides can be incorporated to enhance, not replace , live docents by providing foreign language translations so foreign visitors can hear and receive the story too.  The tour is provided to the public on Orpheo Classic audio guides.  Client – The MillerCoors Brewing Company.  Milwaukee, WI.

We produced the Coors Brewery tour in Golden, CO in Mandarin.  Q Media already had produced the Coors brewery audio tour in three languages – English, Spanish and Japanese – but their research showed that they were getting many Mandarin speaking visitors so they decided they wanted to tell their story to them too.  Client – The MillerCoors Brewing Company.  Golden, CO.

As for our recent projects:

We are currently producing an audio tour for The Mennello Musuem of American Art in Orlando, FL.  This is the third audio tour that Q Media has produced for the Mennello.  This tour will focus on early 20th century American art and the collection of Edward Wales Root – a patron of American artists in the early to mid-twentieth century and the audio tour covers selected pieces from Root’s collection and stories of his relationship to the artists.  Client – The Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando, FL

We are currently producing an audio tour of the Miami Circle in Miami, Florida.  Unearthed in 1998 the Miami Circle is an enigmatic ruin dating back over 2000 years ago when the Tequesta Indians inhabited that area of Florida.  A 38-foot circle of holes cut into the limestone bedrock where the Miami River meets Biscayne Bay, the Miami Circle is considered a sacred place by Native Americans and revered by scholars as an important artifact of Miami’s past.  The Miami Circle site is being preserved and cared for by History Miami for future generations to experience a part of Miami’s history and they are providing tours of the site in both English and Spanish as a downloadable mp3 audio tour.   Q Media was hired to both script and produce the tour.  Client – History of Miami.  Miami, FL.

We’ve just received notice that we have been rewarded the contract to produce a driving tour of historic highway A1A in both English and Spanish.  This 45-stop cell phone driving tour will cover the 75-mile stretch of A1A from St. Augustine north to Ponte Vedra and will incorporate archival oral histories and interviews with local luminaries.  Q Media is scripting the tour, designing and installing the byway signage and designing and producing the tour’s rack cards.  Production is set to begin the beginning of March and the tour will be launched October 1, 2010.  Client – Friends of A1A.  St. Augustine, FL.

Hope you enjoyed catching up on what Q Media has been up to lately.  We have proposals out for many more projects so please check back to see our next update to find out what’s on our horizon.  Maybe the project we will telling the world about will be yours!

Knowing how to swing a hammer doesn’t make you a psychologist…

                                 Hammer                  We recently lost a bid to a competitor. After asking for feedback why so we could be better in the future , criticism was offered and was fair and was provided with the utmost respect and objectivity. The feedback we received regarding why we didn’t get the project was the tour sample we sent (the one closest in subject matter to the project we were bidding on) didn’t reflect their perceptions of how they envisioned the creative direction for their audio tour. Fair enough; but I wanted to add something I thought was missing from the equation when they evaluated our sample: the fact that we produced that tour in collaboration with that client. That tour reflected the vision of the previous client; it is what they wanted and achieves what they wanted to say. It delivers the goals they defined for how they wanted their visitors to interact with their space. Not to say it’s perfect – I can think of small things in any tour we’ve produced that afterwards I thought a change could improve – but the point is that working closely with the client was how that tour came to be. If we had won this recent proposal, we would have pursued the same spirit of collaboration with our new client because that is how we operate with ALL of our clients. At the end of the day, it is their vision and goals that need to be communicated through the audio tour. Of course we offer our learned perspective based on our experience and know-how, but in the end, the client is always right and we produce the tour they want.

And that brings me to the weird title of this post. Being able to drive a nail doesn’t mean you can build a house, or coordinate effectively with all the other folks needed to achieve that complicated goal. And like construction, skill sets need to be available for many aspects of audio tour production. Working with the people aspect — the group dynamics, the creative team, the psychology, if you will — of how a tour comes together is, indeed, the best thing that we know we bring to any project. Is the staff at the facility on the same page when it comes to the approach and content? If not, who brings about the cohesion to make that happen? Are the goals being defined and refined to meet what the theme of what the tour should be? Who facilitates the compromises when there are different viewpoints? Is there good working chemistry between the front-end creative team (writer, producer, and director) and the experts assigned to the project by the facility? If not, how can this be overcome and adapted to bring about excellence?

These factors are just some of the challenges that need to be addressed and they change each time we produce a tour. So in the future, we suggest that when you evaluate a proposal, or a bid, don’t simply ask yourself if the tour sample is similar in style or tone to what you want. Call and ask the previous client if the tour sample reflects what they wanted. Find out if the production team brought something to the table that improved on the vision they had at the start. Ask if the production process created a better outcome than they started with. That’s the key to producing a good audio tour – listening to the client and delivering the result they want.

Q Media GPS GeoTours

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August 23, 2009 – Q Media has launched a new service offering downloadable GPS audio tours for GPS devices.  GPS devices are becoming a great way for outdoor facilities large and small to offer audio tours to their visitors.  Up to now most choices to provide a GPS tour were based on purchasing expensive hardware that also needed to be distributed to your visitors as well as maintained.  But now with a Q Media GeoTour there’s no need to purchase, distribute or maintain any GPS audio tour equipment to provide a GPS tour:  Visitors download the tour into their own GPS devices such as Garmin or Tom-Tom and then use them to experience the tour.  The tours can also be downloaded to an Ipod or mp3 player, can include pictures and video and be made available for sale too.

“This is a great way for our clients to take advantage of emerging technologies,” said Mike Lutz Vice-President and Technical Director at Q Media. “There are many outdoor locations where traditional audio guide hardware or cell phones aren’t an option because of distribution issues or cell reception.  A Q Media GeoTour can now allow for tours where before it wasn’t easily viable to do so.  Outdoor parks, driving tours, city walking tours – any type of tour that takes place outdoors at the visitor’s own choosing and pace – can all easily be made into a Q Media GeoTour”. 

So for example, let us say Q Media is hired to produce a walking tour of New York City’s Theater District.  After the content for the tour is produced, Q Media would provide the outlet for the tour to the public as a Q Media GeoTour on its website and the visitor would only need to choose the device they want for the download to operate on.  No equipment is necessary for the visitor to sign out and return and the tour stops play automatically when the visitor reaches the programmed GPS waypoints.  

To see an example of a Q Media GeoTour please go to the GPS Tours page on the Q Media website and scroll down to the bottom to see the Q Media produced “Kansas Wetlands and Wildlife” driving tour of Barton County, KS.  In the example there you can read a summary of the tour, see a map of the route, preview the audio files and download the tour into a chosen device (with instructions).  Visitors can also rate the tour and leave comments.

If you have been interested in producing and distributing a GPS based audio tour the time has arrived!  Prices to host a Q Media GeoTour tour start at $89/month for non-Q Media clients and the service is free for any Q Media production client who wishes to have it.  For more information on how Q Media can produce and provide a GPS Audio Tour GeoTour for you please contact Stasha Boyd of Q Media Productions at stasha@qmediaproductions.com.

Q Media to provide new audio tour equipment for Kennedy Space Center

NASA LogoJuly 16 2009 – Q Media is proud to announce that they have been contracted to update the audio tour equipment at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Kennedy Space Center, FL. The KSC Visitor’s Center originally had an audio tour installed in 1998 utilizing JVC audio guides. However, time has taken its toll on these players which are no longer supported by JVC and the number of players available to the public has been in sharp decline over the last few years. Q Media is providing Orpheo Classic audio guides to KSC along with the current tour content so once again visitors can enjoy the information previously developed.

The tour will be available to the public in 7 languages–English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish. Q Media is also incorporating Infrared triggering of the Orpheo audio guides for some of KSC’s interactive exhibits.

Orpheo system engineers Antoine Eisenstein and Sylvain Plaetevoet will also be on-hand during the installation to assist Q Media Technical Director Mike Lutz. The new tour hardware also includes Orpheo Desk Manager which allows KSC’s staff to expedite audio guide operations and visitor registraion without the need to hold personal identification.

The tour will once again be available to the public on August 1, 2009.  For more information about Q Media and their project for the Kennedy Space Center Vistor’s Complex please contact Mike Lutz at Q Media at mike@qmediaproductions.com.

WebTour Audio Tours — By Mike Lutz

IphoneIn recent years audio tours on cell phones have become very popular and whether cell phones are chosen for ease of maintenance, or to meet unique operational challenges, they are meeting the needs of many institutions for their audio tour distribution.

Also in recent years there has been more desire by consumers on what they want their mobile devices to do. One of the fastest developing trends is to have access to the internet through mobile devices and new technology like the Apple IPhone is an example of what is possible in realizing how the cell phone has evolved beyond being just a platform for voice communication.  Also internet plans for mobile devices are becoming less expensive as more competitors enter the marketplace allowing people to utilize their mobile devices for many functions beyond communication like game-playing, music downloading and video watching among thousands of other uses.  

This latest development offers a new way to have an audio tour for visitors for less cost.  How?  Well if you are currently paying a cell phone audio tour provider to host your audio tour then in the near future you won’t have to as more people have internet-capable devices:  there won’t be the need to pay for a service to host audio tours for cell phones because your visitors will access your tour directly from your website .  I’m calling these new types of audio tours WebTour Audio Tours and you can learn more about them at our website www.qmediaproductions.com/cellphone.htm

As technology changes and improves rapidly how you hear a tour is still only half of the equation–the other of course is what you are listening to.  Q Media is an award-winning production company that is committed to producing excellent audio tour content no matter how it is heard.  We pride ourselves in being able to exceed the message needs of our clients no matter what distribution platform they require whether it is traditional audio guides, cell phones, Ipods, downloadable tours and now WebTours.  Please contact QMedia if you are considering an audio tour or planning to upgrade your current one to find out more about what we can produce, equip or program for your tour.

Revenue Share Audio Tours

MPj04331180000[1]The first half of year 2009 has been tough. Donations, sponsorships, attendance are all down, down, down. Across the board our clients tell us they are getting hit in the pocketbook by things over which they have little or no control. “What we have to do is bring in more money without spending our cash reserves.” Exactly. Which is why if you don’t already have a revenue share audio tour with Q Media, then I highly suggest you give us a call.

Most organizations are familiar with a standard revenue share arrangement–the vendor covers most or all of the up front costs including hardware and production; the client provides the marketing and promotion, then the earned revenue is shared between the parties. What most museums are not aware of is that Q Media is different; first, we offer this option to organizations that are considered too small by our competitors. The larger audio tour providers cannot offer this valuable service to small to medium sized museums because the return is not considered large enough to cover their overhead. Second, our service is truly shared risk/shared reward. Q Media takes into account large scale disruptions, i.e. hurricanes, that grossly affect your attendance. Last, but certainly not least, Q Media’s productions enhance your visitor’s experience at your museum and add to your ability to tell your story. Our primary talent, focus and purpose is to effectively deliver your message to your visitors.

Let us help you increase your revenue. Seven years ago, Mike and I started Q Media because we were committed to serving our clients and we’re proud to say we’ve succeeded — in good times and bad. Please, give us a call and let’s see what we can do together.